More than 10 percent of the population is engaged in the fisheries sector. However, the performance of the sector in recent times is anything but glorious.
Several reasons have been ascribed for the poor performance in the sector, but one that has continuously resurfaced is illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – which not only poses a threat to the ocean ecology but equally depletes fish stock while denying the country revenue due it from taxation.
We understand that the law requires fingerlings and other fish caught which are not licenced to be caught to be discharged back into the ocean to allow them to grow and breed; but that is often not the case, since local fishermen in canoes willingly take them to sell as catch.
As the demand for such unlicenced fingerlings grew, foreign vessels that usually are engaged in such practice began putting a price on them and freezing them for packaging for the local fishermen; this practice has been dubbed Saiko, a Japanese terminology.
Whatever be the case, the act is illegal and denies the country crucial revenue that is realised from taxing. However, what is even more serious is the fact that Saiko catches are usually juvenile small pelagic like sardines, and the persistent catching of these fingerlings does not allow them time to mature and possibly breed to ensure a continuous supply of fish catch.
Hence, transshipment is an illegal transaction and our fishery laws frown on such acts – yet they are being perpetuated by foreign vessels that fish in our waters, or just around them. A Deputy Director of the fisheries Commission, Godfrey Tsibu, recounts that the country loses millions of dollars in tax revenue, and this cannot be allowed to fester any longer.
Already, the fisheries sector contributes less than three percent of GDP; and with a growing population that spells bad news for the protein requirements of the nation, particularly since fish forms an integral part of most Ghanaians’ diet.
Global losses to IUU is estimated at some US$23.5billion per year, with West African waters recording the highest levels – representing about 37 percent of the region’s catch. We need to put in more preventive measures to curtail this damaging phenomenon in our waters, since sustainability is the new catchphrase and is not an option.